New Orleans indians
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Chief of Mardi Gras Indians gets ready for the big day

Howard Miller is the Big Chief of the Creole Wild West Tribe. Like all Mardi Gras "Indians", he is not Native American.

New Orleans "Indians" are black people who march in the Mardi Gras parade, wearing 100lb (45kg) dresses that they sew themselves throughout the year.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, the so-called "second line" parades take place all through the year, mostly for funerals, weddings and block parties.

Carnival parades, the "Krewe", liven up the entire month leading up to Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

But the "Indians" prepare all year to just come out on a single day - Mardi Gras - this year on 12 February.

The "Indians" tradition is 200 years old and can be traced back to slavery, when Native Americans helped runaway slaves.

The tradition is slowly disappearing, because of the relatively high costs of beads and feathers, and because many "Indians" left the city after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The "Indians" tribes were believed to put up violent fights against each other and later to fiercely compete for the "prettiest" costume.

Chief Howard explains the true tradition has nothing to do with fights and competition. It is only a "spiritual expression of our real selves," he says.

The BBC spent a day with the Big Chief, while he gets ready for the big day.

Produced by Anna Bressanin, Images by Ilya Shnitser

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